Pune: A New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has stated that India’s abysmal management of pesticides has started taking a deadly toll. Every year, there are about 10,000 reported cases of pesticide poisoning in India.
CSE has demanded that the government should step in to ban pesticides that are already banned in several other countries.
Over 39 farmers have reportedly died and hundreds have become ill due to pesticide poisoning in several districts of Vidharba since July this year. These incidents have been reported from Yavatmal, Nagpur, Akola and Amravati. The farmers died after inhaling the toxic pesticides, which they sprayed in the fields.
“The gross negligence in pesticide management in the country is responsible for these deaths,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, CSE. “The Ministry of Agriculture at the Centre and agricultural departments of the states are solely responsible for this gross negligence. These deaths and illnesses can be avoided if we can urgently fix crucial gaps in regulations and improve its enforcement,” he said.
Situation in Maharashtra
According to a CSE report, in Maharashtra, pesticides like monocrotophos and oxydemeton-methyl are considered Class I pesticides by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which are further categorised into extremely hazardous (cCass Ia) and highly hazardous (Class Ib).
The classification is based on acute toxicity of pesticide active ingredient and since Class I pesticides can be fatal at a very low dose, many of these are banned in several countries. Monocrotophos is banned in 60 countries, phorate in 37, triazophos in 40 and phosphamidon is banned in 49 countries. But India still allows the use of these pesticides.
Ban not complete
All Class I pesticides require the use of personal protective equipment, which is difficult for small-scale farmers and farm workers in India. On this basis itself, Class I pesticides should have been banned in India long ago, say CSE researchers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, based on a 2015 review by the Anupam Verma Committee, plans to ban only three out of 18 Class I pesticides beginning from 2018.
The committee had reviewed only 11 out of the 18 pesticides and had proposed to prohibit the use of another four, but only after several years - starting 2021.
“Till we reform our pesticide regulations and regulatory institutions, pesticide poisoning and accidental deaths would continue. A Pesticide Management Bill was introduced in the Parliament in the year, 2008 but it was allowed to lapse. We need a new Pesticide Management Bill to address the issues that are related to the unsafe use of pesticides,” said Chandra Bhushan.
Farmers’ deaths due to inhalation of pesticides
- In 2015, about 7,000 people died because of accidental intake of insecticides/ pesticides.
- In Vidarbha, so far, 468 farmers and farm workers have been admitted to hospitals.
- The official death toll was 39 last week when 11 new cases were admitted in the hospital. However, the actual figure is estimated to have crossed 45.